Kenya: Safaricom, Airtel, Telkom Taken to Court Over Data Bundle Expiry

22 October 2019

A lawyer and ICT practitioner has sued three mobile telephone operators, arguing that they are illegally depriving consumers of their unused data bundles.

In a complaint filed before the Communications and Multimedia Appeals Tribunal, Mr Adrian Kamotho said he was aggrieved by the high cost of data and frustrated by the arbitrary expiry of hard-earned bundles.

He wants the tribunal to order Safaricom, Airtel and Telkom Kenya to furnish him with their current data tariffs or prominently display the current data tariffs on their websites. He also wants the companies to stop depriving consumers of their unused data based on the data expiry model.

Mr Kamotho said the firms discriminate against consumers by charging "out of bundle" rates, which are different from normal bundle rates.

The lawyer said consumers are entitled to keep the data they buy, as long as they remain active on the vendor's network. Data bundles should not have an expiry date until used up' as long as the SIM card is active and the consumer keeps recharging," he said.

Mr Kamotho said the data expiry model is unfair to the poor majority who can buy low-amount bundles, which are designed to expire sooner than big bundles, which only the rich can afford.

He said requiring consumers to use their bundles within a given period is irrational, given the phenomenal deficiency in network coverage in various parts of the country. He added that the frequent pain of losing data when mobile devices run out of power is unbearable.

UNFAIR PRACTICE

Mr Kamotho said he had written to the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) demanding a clarification on the data expiry model, in vain. He accused CA of failing to provide consumers with the option of rolling over unused data, illegally depriving them of their unused data.

He said the firms should send consumers reasonable depletion notifications to enable them to track usage.

In his letter to CA, Mr Kamotho said the data expiry model is slowing down data consumption and the national digital pace as a whole since consumers have no incentive to invest in data packages, which will expire.

He said the regulator has a strong legal duty to protect ICT consumers from unfair, unreasonable and improper business practices. This, he said, includes taking active measures to contain deceptive, misleading and fraudulent dealings by telecommunication operators.

The lawyer said the data expiry model is not anchored in law. He pointed out that Regulation 3 of the 2010 Kenya Information and Communications (Consumer Protection) Regulations accords customers the right to receive clear and complete information on rates, terms and conditions for available and proposed products and services.

He said consumers have a right to accurate and understandable bills for products and services accepted by customers, and prompt redress in the event of a dispute in the provision of the services, as well as protection from unfair trade practices.

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